Week of Feb 6

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Upcoming Important Dates

Feb 9 thru 12 – Gorham High School Spring Musical at MAPC
Feb 10 – Parent Meet-up 6:00 pm GMS Library
Feb 10 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm Gymnasium
Feb 15 – Early Release Day, students dismissed at 11:10
Feb 16 – PIE Meeting, GMS Library 6:00 pm (see agenda below)
Feb 17 – School Winter Vacation Begins
Feb 27 – Students return from Mid-Winter Break

Congratulations to the New England Patriots

I know that this morning we had a whole bunch of bleary-eyed people enter this building this morning, and a few bleary-eyed students too!

It was definitely a night for the ages and one that we all will remember with great fondness… unless you are not from New England! In any event, they certainly provided a lot of fodder for talk around the water cooler.

GHS Presentation of Footloose

Are you looking for some great entertainment next weekend? Can I suggest that you head on over to the Gorham High School MPAC to take in the GHS students’ rendition of the smash Broadway hit and the answer to many Kevin Bacon questions, Footloose. As in every other presentation of our wonderfully talented “former Gorham Middle School” students, this promises to be a night of great music and dancing. And who would pass up a chance to see Rocky Meyers on stage!?

Presentation are Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights,performances beginning at 7:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday matinees beginning at 2:00 pm

School Dance and Parent Meet-up

In conjunction with our monthly school dance, the Gorham Action Team for Youth (GATY) will be sponsoring a Parent Meet-up beginning at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library. The dance goes from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in the Gym.

GMS Social Worker, Cynthia Grover and GHS Substance Abuse Counselor, Claudine Emerson will host parents, answer questions and provide resources for parents who are questioning about the risky behaviors that are present in our community.

Last week, I sent out a letter to all parents and guardians about one such risky behavior, the Choking Game, explaining some of the tell-take signs your child might be engaging in this risky behavior.

If you decide to accompany your child to the dance, your child will be admitted to the dance for free and you’ll get some great information and meet two great resources (Cynthia and Claudine) to help you, and I’ll bet there will be some refreshments of some type!

We hope to see many of you at this very beneficial event!

Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey

Monday morning, all of our students will be taking the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. The survey is a collaboration of the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. These agencies will use the information gained from these surveys to help these departments in determining how they will utilize their resources.

We will get the results of this survey sometime late in the Spring or early Summer. We will share this with all of you when we get it back.

Early Release Day

On Wednesday, February 15, GMS students will be dismissed at 11:10 am. The Gorham Parks and recreation Department have planned a couple of activities for students to enjoy after they are dismissed.

Here are two fliers with he details of each activity. If you are interested in having your child participate, you must contact the Recreation Department directly.

PIE Meeting February 16

We will be holding another PIE Meeting in the GMS Library on Thursday evening beginning at 6:00 pm.

Last month, we talked about the process of moving the school to a Proficiency Based Learning system, and all that it entails. The conversation was lively, and there were still some questions left to answer and still more information that needs to be developed. This could be the top topic of the conversation, as could anything else folks would like to discuss.

I hope we see many of you there.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Selected 8th grade students will be administered the NAEP this coming Friday, during the school day. This is an assessment that we do not control, it comes straight from the US Department of Education. The results of this assessment, which is being given across the country to selected schools and students, will be used to determine the progress of our students in grades 5, 8 and 11.

To learn more about the NAEP and its purpose, check out this link.

Mid-Winter School Vacation Break

Mid-Winter School Vacation will begin at dismissal on Friday, February 17. Students will be dismissed at the regular time.

Here at couple of things that parents will need to know:

  • Students will return to school on Monday, February 27.
  • Student Laptops will be kept at school over the break for inventory and damage assessments.

We hope that all enjoy a restful mid-winter break. Hopefully, we don’t have too many snow storms!

Real Learning

I cam across this video this weekend and it really struck a chord with me when I think about learning. Not just learning in school, but learning while living your life. I hope you enjoy it

Week of October 5

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Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, October 5 – NWEA Testing for 6th Graders, all week
Tuesday, October 6 – Odyssey of the Mind Awareness Night, 6:00 pm GMS Library
Thursday, October 8 – Tooth Fairies
Friday, October 9 – Teacher Workshop Day, No School for Students
Monday, October 12 – Columbus Day, No School
Thursday, October 15 – Sports Team Pictures after school
Thursday, October 15 – School Committee Meeting, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Friday, October 16 – School Dance, Benefit the GMS Holiday Food Drive 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Thursday, October 22 – Parent Teacher Conferences 2:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, October 23 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Wednesday, October 28 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:00 am

What is EICAL?

We are very fortunate at GMS because our faculty has worked extremely hard with our administration to create a schedule that provides for many great learning opportunities beyond that which is typical of the “book learning” that we all remember fro our school days (daze?). This time allows our students to experience learning in a very different way. It also allows for any of our students who need some additional assistance with traditional learning some extra time and help that isn’t always available.

At each grade level, students will be assigned to Band or Chorus, Support room for math and ELA, and a whole array of learning experiences ranging from coding to forensic science and history through the cemetery to basic life skills such as sewing a button or writing one’s name in cursive. There is also a whole parcel of very different but interesting offerings for all of our kids.

Please ask your child about what they will be doing in EICAL in the coming weeks.I hope to be able to post some pictures on the @gmsprincipalriley Instagram account for everyone to see.

Tooth Fairies

OK, no, I have not lost my “marbles” and, yes, Tooth Fairies do exist!tooth fairy

The Tooth Fairies are a dedicated group of Dental; Professionals who make themselves available to several schools in the area to proved free, or very low cost, dental health services to families in each community. These services include cleaning and an examination of potential issues that parents can them address.

Our first Tooth Fairy visit is schedule for Thursday, October 8 during the school day.Tooth

If you would like your child to be examined by a “Tooth Fairy” please give GMS School Nurse Cathy Loiselle a call at 222-1224.

MEA Results

You may remember that back in May,  of our students were administered the MEA’s in ELA and Math through the state. We are awaiting the results of this assessment. When we finally do get the results, we will pass them on to all parents and guardians so that you can see exactly how your child performed.

I know that we all have lots of questions about what will be happening in the way of assessment in the coming months, alt least I know I do!

The state has requested from the many different companies that make these assessments proposals that can be used to administer reliable assessments this year. When we get that information, we’ll pass it along to you.

School Dance

Our next school dance will help to raise funds for our annual Holiday Food and Gift Drive. Each year, our school has provided holiday meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas for more than 20 families in our community. Our staff has also collected enough gifts to provide many of these families the chance to celebrate the holidays with a at least a few gifts under their tree for their kids on Christmas morning.

We will use the proceeds of this dance to help offset the cost of each of these events. We will also be collecting food later in the month with our Student Council to fill the Holiday Meal box with everything from the Turkey all the way to cranberry sauce.

Please watch this space later in the month for how you can contribute to our Holiday Drive

Parent Teacher Conferences

As hard as this is to believe, we are half way through the first quarter of the school year! Where does the time go!

We have scheduled our conferences for Thursday and Friday, October 22 &23. Thursday will begin at 2:00 pm and run through 8:00 pm and Friday will begin at 8:00am until 2:00 pm.

You will be receiving information from your child’s Advisor with information about the conferences and providing you an opportunity to schedule a time.

With our Advisory System, we have parents meet, at least initially, with the students’ Advisors. We do this to allow for more time than the 10 minutes or so, for the content area teachers that would need to be allowed if they met with all of their parents. This does not mean that you con’t meet with individual teachers, if you’d like. All you need to do is call them, or your child’s advisor and make that request.

Also, you never need to wait for the “Formal” conference time. You can arrange meetings with your child’s teachers at anytime, just give them a call or send them an email with your concerns and your desire to meet.

Essay Contest Opportunities for all Students

We have several opportunities for our GMS kids to show off their writing skills in the coming month.

I am very happy to announce the 3rd Annual Madison Prize for Written Excellence Contest, sponsored by the Gorham Town Republican Committee. The Madison Prize offers 3 cash prizes to the students, two runners-up prizes of $100, and a Grand Prize of $250 to one student.

We have given the entry forms to all of the teachers. I have asked them to work with any and all students who have expressed an interest in participating. The deadline for entry into this contest is November 6th.

The second contest is sponsored by the Anne Frank Center USA. This is the second year of the contest for students across the country in grade 5 through 8 to participate. The Anne Frank Center USA was founded by Ann’s father, Otto Frank, to teach communities about the dangers of discrimination. The Center believes, as Anne did, that children matter and can make a difference.

The Anne Frank essay contest has lots of information available on its website: http://annefrank.com

Odyssey of the Mind

Odyssey of the Mind (OM) will be holding an OM Awareness night on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. At this meeting, parents and students will learn how the Odyssey of the Mind Creative Problem Solving Program encourages students’ teamwork, risk-taking and divergent thinking skills.

Encourage your child to “take a risk” and find out more about the OM at GMS.

Crafting Learning for Kids Today

While I believe that we have several students who are equal to Tomas Suarez, the young man in the video below, I was very intrigued with the manner in which he spoke of his passion. At no time did he indicate that this passion of his was solely nurtured by him. He mentions several times during this 4 minute video how several people, including his teachers encouraged him and helped him along the way.

I would like us all to find ways to release the inner Thomas Suarez loose in all of our learners. I hope you enjoy this brief video.

 

 

Is It Really May??

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 Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, May 19 – Proficiency Based Education Parent meeting 10:00 am GMS Library
Wednesday, May 21 – Eagle Team to Wolf’s Neck State Park
Thursday, May 22 – Proficiency Based Education Parent meeting 6:00 pm, GMS Library
Thursday, May 22 – Selected Students to the MLTI Student Conference in Orono
Monday, May 26 – Memorial Day Holiday – No School Thursday,
May 29 – Career Day for 8th graders – Details below
Thursday, May 29 – GMS Chorus Concert GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm

School Report Cards

The Maine Department of Education has issued its second round of School Report Cards based upon the administration of the NECAPs back in October, 2013. Now, before I go off on a rant about whether these report cards are fair, I came across a blog entry from Daniel Waisberg, an Analytics Expert from Google. Many of you who are regular readers here have heard me use the well worn phrase of Mark Twain about “Lies, Damnable Lies and Statistics. In fact, a few month ago I posted a TED video by that very name. The whole idea that we can use statistics, and data to make any point we want sound good. However, Mr. Waisberg talks about using the data to make a story, our story, memorable. And, yes, we do have a story, and a memorable one at that! Last year, we were rated a “B” by the state, which should mean that we are a pretty good school. While we were proud to receive that “B”, we also knew that in the future, there would be challenges coming given how these grades would be computed. This year, we received a “C”, and, yes we are proud of the “C” as well. We recognize that while we dropped a letter grade in our scores, we were extending our practices to reach all of our students, especially the bottom 25% of our students. In a rather ironic twist, it was this group of students who created the greatest lag upon our grade. We did not get enough of them to demonstrate “growth over year-to-year”. What I find difficult to understand is that almost half of the students who are in our bottom 25% are all “proficient” according to the NECAP results. Somehow I need to paint a compelling story about how we educate our kids in our community using this type of data. So I will begin with a note from Haim Ginnott, and I think it is self-explanatory. Screenshot 2014-05-19 08.19.02 This note was written in 1972 and I came by through Ingvi Hrannar, a teacher from Iceland who I follow on Twitter. This is what we work towards everyday. Yes, we teach Reading, Writing and Arithmetic everyday as well, but helping students understand that there is power in knowledge, but also knowing how to use that power gained from learning is the most important thing we do everyday.  Somedays, we are better at it than other days, but it never leaves our focus.

Physics Day at Funtown

Last Friday, our 8th grade students were among a small number of Middle Schools invited to participate in the annual Physics Day at Funtown. While I will agree that this is a wonderful marketing device by the folks at Funtown/Splashtown, it is also a day for students to experience all that they have studied in their science class first-hand. One experiment that was accomplished was the rate of descent of an object, as evidenced by the following video:

While the students were calculating rates of descent, I was calculating how many quarters would be needed to get a complete soak. And, as you can easily see, my calculations were spot on! So, see, it was educational for everyone!

 GMS Robotics Team Places 2nd

The GMS Robotics Team of Vipul Periwal, Nolan McCullough, Aaron Jones, Xander Lemieux and Nate Goff showed great team work and sportsmanship during the Maine Robotics Track Meet in South Portland over the weekend. The team competed in the Shot Put competition and placed 2nd among all teams. Congratulations to all of the team members.

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Conversation of Proficiency Based Education

We have had one meeting discussing the coming shift to Proficiency Based Education on Monday morning and we will have a second conversation on Thursday evening in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. We do have a presentation to work through but, today, we found lots of time for some really good questions from the parents in attendance as we progressed through the requirements of this shift.

One question, and really a great concern of most in attendance, was the ability of college admission people understanding a Proficiency Based Transcript when making decisions about their incoming First Year Class. Here is a link to a blog post by former Gorham Middle School teacher Sara Needleman providing some insight and some answers to this questions.

https://www.jumpro.pe/blog/getting-into-college-with-a-proficiency-based-transcript/

Ultimately, teachers will continue to teach and, hopefully, students will continue to learn. We will still have lots of homework and tests and all of the “things” we have now, we’ll just look at it differently.

Hopefully you can join us on Thursday night at 6:00 pm.

8th Grade Career Day

We are in the final stages of planning our second annual Career Day on May 29th. Unlike last year, students will remain at school and we will have several folks come in to speak with the students about what skills they will need to get a job. We will have more information and the names of the folks who will be presenting to the students by the end of the week. We will get that information out to you shortly after.

It has the possibility of being a landmark day for our 8th graders. What they will hear and the lessons that will be taught should have an impact on our kids during their high school years.

NWEA Testing

We will finish up this year’s NWEA testing this week as we administer the assessment to our 8th graders. We have tried to emphasize how important to all of the 8th graders how important these assessments are as the high school works to placing students in certain classes. The high school administration closely examines these results to try to determine whether a particular student may need additional support services in order to be successful.

The assessments we administer are Reading, Math and Language Usage. They are very comprehensive in testing the progress and learning of students as well as providing one predictor of future success. I am asking you all to speak with your 8th graders about how they think they are doing on the NWEA’s and to stress how important it is that they show what they know in math and reading.

Until next time…

A Full Week of School

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Upcoming Important Dates

  • May 6 thru 10 – Teacher Appreciation Week
  • May 7 – 8th Grade Assembly in the auditorium 11:30 AM
  • May 8 – Faculty Meeting in the Library 2:30 – 4:00 (food provided by all Males)
  • May 10 – MEA Science Assessment for all 8th graders
  • May 10 – School Dance sponsored by 8th grade Physics day
  • May 15 – Leadership Team Meeting Melanie’s room 2:30

Summer Reading Assembly

We will have an assembly immediately after lunch on Tuesday, May 7 with Sue Sedenka and Chris Record to discuss the Summer Reading Program expected of all incoming Freshmen Students. Mrs. Sedenka will give a brief review of each of the books offered and then students will have an opportunity to select a book that is of interest to them, from those offered. All incoming 9th graders will be expected to actively participate on the first day of school in August in a vibrant discussion of their chose book.

Update on Last Week’s Events

School administration and Gorham Police Department are continuing the investigation as to who wrote the threats on the bathroom walls. We are committed to finding the individual, or individuals, involved in these acts. We would like to ask all for any information that you may have regarding this and please let us know.

8th Grade Physics Day at Funtown

home_header2On May 17th, all of our 8th grade students will travel to Funtown/Splashtown in Saco to participate in their annual celebration of Physics Day. OK, I know what you’re all thinking, this is a pretty good boondoggle to get in a field trip to an amusement park for the kids.

I can assure you there is quite a bit of work that the student do to prepare for this excursion to the park and then, once they arrive, they have to complete several real physics problems before they can actually play.

We are very fortunate to be allowed the attend this day, as it is usually reserved for High School students. We have been able to demonstrate a level of work and behavior, that we get invited back each year. There is nothing that can make a student understand the science and math involved in sitting in a chair that had been raised over 185 feet above the ground and then allowed to let gravity work its magic. Students can actually feel affects of physics while they try to figure out the solutions.

GMS Special Olympians

Last Thursday, several of our Special Olympians competed in the regional Special EVANOlympics at Windham High School. Gorham was well represented by all of the schools with plenty of participants in every event.

GMS Special Olympians performed very well with Evan Morrell taking a first place in the 50 meter dash.

Lauren Hawkes Memorial Garden Get a Face Lift

Lauren's gardenI want to extend a huge THANK YOU to Mrs. Tassey for her dedication to our school and for her work at reviving the Lauren Hawkes memorial Garden from a very difficult winter season. It was such a wonderful sight to behold upon returning from the April vacation to see all of the beautiful new flowers and the ugliness of the sand from the winter removed. Thank you again, Mrs. Tassey

Faculty Meeting Agenda

The very first reminder for this meeting is that the males are responsible for the food this week. This could be a real deterrence for attendance, I realize!

We will meet in the Library beginning at 2:30. The agenda is as follows:

  • Accolades
  • Open Discussion
    We are seeking any items from the faculty to be included
  • Content Area meetings to discuss the implications of Common Core for next August and beyond.
  • Other

Scholastic Book Fair

All this week we will be holding a Scholastic Books Book Fair in the GMS Library. Students wishing to purchase any books may do so during the school day. Also, speaking of Scholastic Books, they are holding their regular, end-of-year warehouse sale at the warehouse in Saco, May 9 -18. This is a great opportunity to get some great books at prices reduced 25 to 80% off the regular price. Check out Scholastic Books web site for times and other information.

Rita Pierson at TED Education

Rita Pierson has been teaching school for more than  40 years. Both of her parents were teachers, so she has been going to school almost all of her life. In this video, she shares a story about a colleague who stated “they don’t pay me to like the kids”, to which Rita responded, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like!”

I hope you enjoy Rita’s humor as well as her message.

A Full Week of School…What a Novel Idea!

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Upcoming Important Dates

  • January 9 – Faculty Meeting in the Library at 2:30
    Agenda

    • Review of School Security
      Lock down and Hold in Place
      Fire Drills
      Code Blue
    • Learning Team Breakout sessions
      Please Check your team’s Wiki for new items for your review
  • January 10 – Curriculum Committees for VPA and Health/PE will be meeting. You should have been contacted by your Chairperson with information on meeting times and places.
  • January 10 – PIE Meeting in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. All are welcome to attend, we will be discussing school security in the wake of the events in Connecticut and in the days prior to school vacation. Lt. Chris Sanborn of the Gorham Police Department will join us to answer and questions.
  • January 16 – Leadership Team meeting in Melanie’s room beginning at 2:30 pm. Discussion of Learning Team work, FY14budget and the implications of the state’s curtailment will be on the agenda.
  • January 18 – School Dance sponsored by the Stroudwater team and the Eagle Team in the GMS Gym from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Sorry folks, no fog machine!
  • January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day no school.

Something We’ve Talked About, but…

Over the past couple of years, we have discussed the idea of having 8th grade teachers spend a day shadowing some of the High School teachers, New Ideasseeing how our “old” 8th graders are faring in their new environment. The opportunity for our 8th grade teachers to witness, first-hand, the workings of the new Academy system that our former students experience could bring some new ideas and concepts to our level regarding a smooth transition to high school life.

Between now, and February vacation, I would like to have some volunteers who would like to spend at least a half day with one of the High School Academies. If you would like to be first on the list, please let Susie or me know.

Regarding Fear

It would not be much of a stretch to make the statement that the last few days of school, just before the Christmas Break, were filled with considerable anxiety for many of us. With the echos of those terrible reports from Connecticut still ringing in our ears, we, schools in York and Cumberland County, were forced to deal with baseless reports being transmitted through social media outlets, of possible events in our schools.

Fortunately, we have a very professional police force who investigated these reports thoroughly and found that there were no threats of nefarious action by anyone toward any school in Maine. It is unfortunate, however, that we expended considerable human resources in essence, chasing air.

I am sure that psychology has a name for this. You know, the condition where we heighten our senses to every creek or noise and think that there is someone, or something, waiting to pounce on us and do evil. Given those horrific events, it is very understandable that we all would react in that manner. None of us ever want to experience that kind of pain.

I came across a video by Karen Thompson, author of a novel called The Age of Miracles. In this TED video, she uses the story of the whaling vessel Essex to talk about how humans relate to fear. I found this extremely interesting, I hope you do as well.

Common Sense Media

badge_school_webI am so happy to report to you that Gorham Middle School is now a Common Sense Media School! Thanks to Terri Dawson, we have completed all of the requirements to receive this very special certification.

For those of you who have visited this site in the past, you know that I refer to Common Sense Media often for reviews to new movie releases, reviews of new video games and some great tips for keeping our kids safe while they are online. The fact the we have completed the necessary requirements to achieve this certification is a statement to our commitment to our community. We are very proud to be able to put the Common Sense Media certification on our web page.

The Homework Debate

I can never remember my parents making comments on my homework (except when I didn’t get done, which was often). Homework was assigned and then it was completed and turned in to teachers. What happened after that, I don’t really remember. I guess I could have received feedback than help me adjust my thinking and learning, but I can’t remember This not remembering seems to be a theme with me!).

Today, and for the last 25  years or so, the debate rages on about homework. Do we assign too much or not enough? Do we grade the homework and have it count in the students’ final grade? How do we tech students to be organized and “take care of business”? Students, today, are so busy with after school activities, jobs, sports, chores and they already spend six and one half hours in school, when do they get their “down time”?

I am going to reference several different folks, all of whom have weighed in on the Homework Debate, from both sides, through professional articles, blogs and other types of media.

Dan Meyer is a Doctoral Fellow at Stanford and in 2007 he offered his take on the homework debate. In 2007, Dan was teaching HS math. His blog entry is entitled “Why I Don’t Assign Homework”.

Patrick Larkin, Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Burlington, Massachusetts and a former Principal of Burlington High School offered this blog post, perhaps more of an observation as a parent, entitled “How Necessary is Homework?” . This post also offers several other voices that provide a very balanced approach to the debate.

Joe Bower is a teacher from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada and writes a blog entitled “For the Love of Learning”. He openly professes to “challenge traditional schooling while exploring more progressive forms of education”. Joe offers a true “table of contents” for articles about homework that can be interesting.

Did You Call Me a MOOC?

openculture_bannerI am old enough to remember that if someone in your neighborhood called you a MOOC, that is was not good and could lead to fisticuffs to defend your honor. Today a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course that makes learning, at a very high level, or not, available to almost everyone who has a desire to learn. Open Culture is a website that makes so much learning possible to so many people, at no cost!

Want to learn a foreign language? You’ll find lost of languages available at Open Culture. How about free audio books? There are more than 500 of the classics available at the click of a mouse. You can find college level courses taught by highly respected experts and college professors. Check out the  Open Culture Website

We’ve Been So Busy, We Needed Another Edition!

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Important Upcoming Dates

  • December 13 – Monthly PIE meeting in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm
  • December 13 – Chorus and Steel Band Concert in the Auditorium beginning at 6:00 pm
  • December 14 – Progress Reports go home to with students.
  • December 14 – School Dance sponsored by the 8th Grade 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the GMS Gym
  • December 19 – Faculty Holiday get together during the faculty meeting. Details to follow.
  • December 19 – Band Concert in the Auditorium beginning at 6:00 pm
  • December 21 – Last school day of the year activities: Music Concerts, team activities and the annual Student/Faculty Basketball game.
  • December 24 – January 1- Christmas Holiday Break

First Lego League Robotics Championships

On Saturday, December 8th, the Gorham Middle School Lego Team, “AllSySTEMS Go”, traveled to Augusta for the First Lego League Championship. 72 teams from around the state made the same journey to compete for the Championship trophy.During the competition the students are constantly observed by the judges and are spontaneously asked to solve problems. The teams are judged on their teamwork, collaborative style and promptness of solutions. The AllSySTEMS Go team placed first of all teams in the competition.

In the Robot Timed Trials, the members of All SySTEMS Go team finished in 11th place, congratulations to team members Sam Roussel, Sam Martel, Teddy Lockman, Avery Arena, Thomas Matthews, Simon Roussel, Felix Morrissey and Autumn Heil. A special thanks to Gorham High School student, Arthur Lockman for invaluable assistance as a mentor and Co-Coach.

For more information on the First Lego League of Maine
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The Concert Season has Begun

I just returned home from a wonderful concert at the Middle School. A full house in our auditorium heard the Gorham Middle School Steel Band perform a couple of great tunes. Maybe it’s just me, but the sound of steel drums has me thinking of sunshine and warm beaches and gentle breezes. A very relaxing state to be in!

After the Steel Band students left the stage our very new and incredibly talented GMS Chamber Singers perform two numbers (one that was a complete surprise to the members!). They were incredible and their voices were almost angelic!

Finally, the full chorus took the stage and sang 4 or 5 songs, some with a distinct holiday feel. They were all terrific and Mrs. Wheeler-Williamson (or, as some of her students call her, Mrs. Will) did a great job of keeping the program moving through three transitions and had the kids in great tune. Well done by all.

Professional Development Day for Teachers

The above mass is called a QR Code, or Quick Response code. These are cropping up in magazines, on TV newscast and in museums. It wasn’t until this workshop day that I now understand what this is for. This allows the author (me) to imbed this code into the post and have it filled with lots of great information, without having to type a lot (I like this!!). The reader can scan the code with their smart phone or IPod and have all of the information at their fingertips. This is what our teachers learned during the workshop on Wednesday.

To say we were busy would be an understatement, also, to say that many of us were stretched beyond our comfort zone, would be making a gross understatement! All of our faculty worked hard at trying to understand this “new-fangled” technology, and they all did a great job. Check it out:

Tech Gurus

Technology Integrators Bob Asselyn and Terri Dawson, who organized this great day of technology professional development.

JW

Middle School Specialists Judy Wuorio and Lori Snow getting the hang of the QR Codes.

Try to imagine a classroom where students can go to anyone of several QR Codes and scan it with their smart phone, laptop of IPod and have a film clip of  Fireside Chat with FDR during WWII, or listen to JFK deliver his Inaugural Address to the world on that cold day in 1961. The applications for this technology is limitless in the classroom and limitless for the students to be able to create the evidence of their learning.

Community Service Day 2012

The school was abuzz with activity on Wednesday, December 12. All of our advisory groups were involved in some sort of community service within our town.

A couple of groups went to the walking trails that surround our beautiful campus and performed clean up duty, picking up lots of broken branches and other forms of litter as well as doing some grooming work on the trails themselves, making them more passable for the many folks who walk those trails daily.

Some students, along with their advisors, picked up all kinds of trash from around the neighborhood and still more went to the Gorham House to help with organizing supply closets and other types of work.

Chids advisory

Mr. Chidsey’s Advisory students perform clean up around the school.

Mr.McCarthy

The Trail groomers from Mr. McCarthy’s advisory

It’s That Time of Year Again

No, I’m not talking about the Holidays, I am talking about the practice schedules for our boy’s and girl’s basketball teams.

Our teams all practice at different times after school, and we try to rotate the schedule so that not one team always has the late practice or the early practice. We ask that if your child’s team is not practicing in the 2:30 or 3:30 time slot, that those students go home as the normally would after the school day and then return about 15 minutes before their practice is to begin. We ask this because we usually do not have any adult coverage for these kids while they are here at school after 4:00 pm.

I am aware that some of our students live quite a way away from the school, and this may cause a hardship. We just cannot provide the appropriate adult coverage and oversight.

Developments at the State Department of Education

There is a whole slew of information coming from the Department of Education in Augusta in these last days of the calendar year. You may be aware NCLBcodethat the state has requested a waiver from the US Department of Education regarding the 2001 law No Child Left Behind. The US DoE has requested some moderate adjustments and our folks in Augusta are working on the plan to meet these requests. For more information about the waiver, you can checkout the the application here: or by scanning this QR Code:

We have talked about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) here in the past, but we haven’t spent a great deal of time talking about how our progress toward to standards was going to be measured. We are now getting some information from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) about the descriptors that will be used. They are seeking public feedback through January 15, 2013. For the descriptions of student performance on Common Core assessments check out the SBAC website. http://www.smarterbalanced.org/

Not to be outdone by the Math and English/Language Arts folks, the Science folks have been busy developing their standards. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will guide our teachers and students in what will be important for the making of a well grounded science student. In January, the second draft of the NGSS will be released and the National Science Teachers Association will be creating a study group to support educators in forming review groups for the NGSS. For more information about this work, you can check out the National Science Teachers Association website.

There will be more standards released in the content areas of Social Studies, World Languages, Visual and Performing Arts and Health and Physical Education in the months ahead. We will try to keep you all informed with as much information as we get on these standards proposals.

Homework, Is it Good for our Kids?

There has been a lot of ink expended on both sides of this argument. Those who believe that it is important stress the need for students to become more responsible and demonstrate the ability to learn independently. Those who believe that it is an unnecessary intrusion into the family life and creates more stress within the home than it if worth.

What do you think?

Over the next month, or so I plan to gather as many of the arguments for both side of this controversy and post them here. Personally, I have feelings in both camps and I really need to sort through all of this. Hopefully we can do this together.

If you have anything you would add to the conversation, please feel free to comment.

Until next time…

Week of December 10 (where 12/12/12 will happen!)

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Important Upcoming Dates

  • December 12 – GMS Community Service Day during our Early Release Day
  • December 12 – The Teacher Workshop portion of the Early Release Day will focus on technology.
  • December 13 – Monthly PIE meeting in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm
  • December 14 – Progress Reports go home to with students.
  • December 14 – School Dance sponsored by the 8th Grade 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the GMS Gym
  • December 19 – Faculty Holiday get together during the faculty meeting. Details to follow.
  • December 21 – Last school day of the year activities: Music Concerts, team activities and the annual Student/Faculty Basketball game.
  • December 24 – January 1- Christmas Holiday Break

Holiday Giving

We still have some tags on the cabinet doors by Laurie’s desk for families in need this Christmas. If you would like to participate in making the holidays a little brighter for some of our middle school families, all you need to do is take a tag, or two, from the cabinet doors and and bring in the requested item, wrapped, to Teresa Merrill. There is absolutely no obligation to participate in this!

Scholastic Books Sale

schoalstic logoI am going to remind all of us about this again, and, no, I am still not receiving and compensation for this plug!

This sale is so amazing, that it should not be missed. Books for as much as 80% off the cover price and a great selection too. They also have lots of other stuff that make great stocking stuffers for kids and adults. The sale begins on December 6th and runs through December 15th. It is at the Scholastic Books warehouse in the Saco Industrial Park.

For more information you can checkout the sale on the Scholastic Books website. (I think you can also get a coupon for a discount)

What are Teachers Reading?

Unfortunately, with age comes the destruction of brain cells, and that keeps me from remembering who first posted this to Twitter. Could have been Patrick Larkin, George Couros, Alex Couros or just about anybody, but I thought it was important enough to pass on to our faculty. The 50 most popular books that teachers are reading is a very comprehensive list of titles of interest to teachers. Rather than having me plagiarize myself, I am just going to place a link to the site here: http://edudemic.com/2012/12/best-books-for-teachers/ .

Some of these titles I have read, but many are very new to me. Guess I know what I am going to be doing over the Christmas Break!

“I was just kidding!”

Both Mrs. Hanley and I have lost count on how many times we have heard this as an excuse for some sort of inappropriate student behavior. Often, when students make this statement to us in response to our question of “What did you do?”, we tell the student that “if we had a nickel for each time5881-Business-Man-Clowning-Around-While-Standing-On-A-Chair-Clipart-Illustration we heard this…” I know that this isn’t really a good response and the kids really don’t understand what we are saying, or why we are saying it.

It is our experience that most of the behaviors that escalate into that zone of inappropriateness, start out as just fooling around. Kids will be kidding each other and then one takes it to a different level, or it get overdone by one student and they don’t realize that they are now creating discomfort with their acquaintance.

We all really do need to be more mindful in out words. Words that we don’t think could create a situation for someone, often does. Once we utter those words, it is impossible to bring them back and the hurt that accompany those words hurt for a long time. We only need to look at the circumstance that was created by a couple of “fun loving” morning DJ’s in Australia to find an example of fooling around going very wrong!

I know it’s early for New Year’s resolutions, but this is one I am going to push in the weeks ending this year with our students and for myself. So, in honor of Emily Dickinson, who was born on this day in 1830, I close this section with the follow quote on words: “A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.” Happy Birthday, Emily.

GMS Community Service Day

This coming Wednesday all of our students will be engaged in some kind of service to our community. Last week I gave several examples of the tasks our kids will be taking on. For me, this is the best day of the year. It really is great to see our kids engaged in making the lives of many of our community members brighter, better, experiencing some joy as these kids go out into our community to share the joy of their lives. It is a day where both the “givers” and the “receivers” experience the warmth of human kindness in every way.

A Personal Plea from My Advisory

MV5BNzMxMDY0NDU0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzA1MDA0Nw@@._V1._SY317_Our Advisory students are taking on bullying behaviors head-on! We have spent the past two months researching ways for our school to lessen the incidents of bullying and we think we have discovered something.

First, we ask all of you to go to the StopBullying. gov website and vote for the top anti-bullying PSA. These PSA’s have been created by students from school around the country and entered into the website’s contest. These videos are all very powerful and they deliver a great message for students and adults. To vote, you need only click on this link: http://stopbullying.challenge.gov/submissions.

When you have viewed the videos, select the one you like the most (I promise you, this is a lot harder than it sounds!) and submit your vote.

The deadline for this contest in 11:00 pm tonight (sorry for the short notice), but your vote will help to choose an excellent PSA and you will have seen 7 great videos to help change your disposition about bullying behaviors.

Check This Out

As we have examined our practices to make sure that we align our curriculum with the Common Core State Standards, there has been  a lot of conversations about where poetry fits in. This video from our very good friends at TED, I hope, will rejuvenate our thoughts about where this form fits with our students. Prepare to be amazed!

Progress Reports

They say the the true sign of aging is when your perception of time passing increases. I know that I am getting old when I continue to refer to the fact that “I can’t believe that it is time for Progress Reports again”! But, alas, it is that time again when we report out to parents and guardians on the progress of the children. We will distribute the Progress Reports on Friday, December 14th, during advisory period. You can look for the Progress Reports when your child gets home and then asks you for $5.00 to go to the dance that night!

If, for some reason, your child’s report is not what you expected, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s advisor for answers. You do not need to wait for Parent/Teacher conferences to come around again. Also. you can check on your child’s progress using the Infinite Campus Student Information System Parent Portal. If you have forgotten how to access your child’s account or if you never got your user name and password, please call Terry LaMontagne in our Guidance Office and she will help get you connected.